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The question

Every winter I face the same dilemma: how to keep my head, including my ears, warm without looking like a bushwhacker. Any ideas?

The answer

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Every winter I receive the same difficult question. And every winter I give the same answer: basic rabbit (or other non-endangered animal) fur, Russian-style, with flaps that can be tied up overhead or let down in a gale, is still the best combination of practicality and dressiness to match a wool overcoat and suit. If you are opposed to dead animals on your head or even facsimiles of them, you are left with a wool tuque, which may not make you look like a Russian general but will never – at least not in this country – be laughed at or condescended to.

The whole question of "looking like a bushwhacker" is just intractable in Canada. Fine men's clothes in the European tradition are not, whatever I might fantasize, going to help you survive a wait for the bus in Winnipeg in January. And so we have developed a different (read: laxer) set of aesthetic standards. Whenever I suggest elegance in winter wear I receive a toboggan-load of angry missives from Canadians reminding me that there is nothing wrong with bushwhacking and that a true patriot proudly refuses the trappings of fashion, which come from effete and parasitical places like Toronto anyway. There is almost always veiled scorn for the effeminate in these conjunctions (fashion = girly = Toronto = gay = weak) that comes from the nation's oldest, darkest, most primal superstitions. This is our id.

So I would never dare disdain the tuque. Here are the only don'ts I would timidly propose, if you are dressing for business. Avoid:

(1) athletic fleece caps. They all come with some kind of brand logo that will blare from your forehead. You are not a walking commercial.

(2) Multicoloured South-America-style earflap-hats with dangling strings and cheery pompoms. You are over 15 (right?).

(3) Sports-team caps and tuques. Women take one look at you in your rad Chargers gear and foresee a lifetime of dreary Sunday afternoons.

(4) Giant fedoras. They leave your ears to freeze and make you look like a jazz musician who uses the word "classy" without irony.

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Remember, I am only talking about dress-up styles here; on the weekend, when it's 20 below, I stop being a fashion critic altogether.

Russell Smith is a novelist. His recent memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a fashion question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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